Can Our Eyes Fool Our Taste Buds?

Elementary Psychology Science Fair Project
Photo Source: Rowan Frances

Ever wonder if what we see influences our perceptions of taste? If you're interested in finding out the psychology behind color and food, this project is for you! The cool thing is, there are lots of variations to this particular project...

Identifying Drink Flavors

  • suggests doing the experiment with apple juice. Fill three containers with juice - 1) add red food coloring, 2) add green food coloring, 3) leave untouched. Have at least 20 volunteers test a sample of each - #1, #2, then #3 - and identify the flavor. Determine how many participants mis-identified the flavor to keep with the color. 
  • suggests using club soda or Sprite/7-Up. Fill four containers, adding a different color of food coloring to each, and invite participants to identify the flavor. [NOTE: The order of samples tested doesn't matter as much in this experiment as it did for the apple juice. However, make sure the order is consistent from volunteer to volunteer.]

Citrus Scramble also recommends a fun fruit test using oranges and lemons. They invite you to test whether staging affects our perceptions of taste - by inviting participants to sit at a table adorned with oranges (some peeled, some not), blindfolding the volunteer, and switching out the orange slices to have them eat a slice of lemon instead.

Jelly Bean Identification

Science Fair Projects suggests using jelly beans to determine whether our eyes can fool our taste buds. Divide participants into two groups - in the first group, participants will see the samples they're consuming and report on the flavor, but in the second group, participants will be blindfolded as they eat each sample and identify the flavor.

For the full project details, be sure to visit these great sites! While each experiment is great by itself, perhaps doing more than one will give you a more comprehensive look at color v. taste!